Earlier this week, two “huge expulsions of magnetic field and plasma” burst out of an area near the center of the sun’s disc. The first eruption occurred on Monday and was followed by another on Wednesday according to the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center.
“Essentially the sun just shot out a magnet and it is about to interact with another magnet, Earth’s magnet,” William Murtagh, program coordinator of the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, said yesterday.
Solar eruptions to cause GPS disruption?
Geomagnetic storms can cause some problems for the (power) grid but are typically very manageable,” Bill Murtagh, space weather forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told USA Today. “We may also see some anomalies with satellites so satellite operators around the world have been notified. And problems with the accuracy of GPS have been observed with this level of storming.”
The first wave is expected to cause a G2 storm, while the second arrival could cause a G3 incident as its effects will be added to the first storm. Geomagnetic storms are classified like hurricanes on a five-step scale ranging from G1 (the weakest) to G5 (the strongest).
Solar eruptions: Past storms
While scientists aren’t expecting major disruptions, the potential does exist. In March of 1989, the entirety of Quebec lost power due to a solar storm according to NASA’s website, while both the New York and New England power grids lost a fair bit of power. Power failures due to solar storms also occurred in both 1958 and 2003. In 1859, a large storm electrified telegraph lines which shocked numerous operators and even started fires on their desks when paper ignited.
The most likely outcome from the storms is a glow of the aurora in the Northern sky which should be visible to those in states bordering Canada. In order to notice it, people will need to get away from city lights.